Does Evidence Take Away from the Bible’s Authority?

by Travis Dickinson

Authority Issues

Christians have always been extremely wary of holding anything, such as philosophy or “reason” or evidence, as an authority over Scripture. It is sometimes argued that if one appeals to something as a reason to believe Scripture, then that thing becomes one’s authority. But, for the Christian, nothing can stand in authority over Scripture. Thus, we cannot use reason and evidence as our basis for believing the claims of Scripture.

The very prominent theologian, Wayne Grudem, has said:

Since the words of Scripture are “self-attesting,” they cannot be “proved” to be God’s words by appeal to any higher authority. If we make our ultimate appeal, for example, to human logic or to scientific truth to prove that the Bible is God’s Word, then we assume the thing to which we appeal to be a higher authority than God’s words and one that is more true or more reliable. Therefore, the ultimate authority by which Scripture is shown to be God’s words must be Scripture itself.[1]

Is Scripture Self-Attesting?

Though it is a common phrase in the history of theology, it seems difficult to know exactly what is meant by saying Scripture is “self-attesting.” Grudem himself goes on to explain this as the persuasiveness of Scripture in the actual experience of the world. But if this is right, then Scripture doesn’t seem truly self-attesting. It is seems to be the experiences of the world that attest to its truth in persuading us. Grudem goes on to even more explicitly contradict his initial claim (so it seems to me) by saying we can have evidence for the authority of scripture without that evidence becoming a higher authority…

Does Evidence Take Away from the Bible’s Authority?